The Festival of Patrick is a cultural and religious holiday celebrated on March 17th. It commemorates Saint Patrick (c. A.D. 387-461), the most commonly recognized of the patron saints of Ireland, and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. It is observed by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion (especially the Church of Ireland), the Eastern Orthodox Church and Lutheran Church.
Saint Patrick was made an official feast day in the early seventeenth century, and has gradually become a secular celebration of Irish culture in general.
The day is generally characterized by the attendance of church services, wearing of green attire, and the lifting of Lenten restrictions on eating, and drinking of alcohol, which is often proscribed during the rest of the season. The lifting of restrictions is always welcome in any culture not the least of which in the Irish culture.
Saint Patrick’s Day is a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Newfoundland and Labrador and in Monserrat. It is also widely celebrated by the Irish diaspora (Irish emigrants and their descendants) especially in places such as Great Britain, Canada, the United States, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand among others.
Today Saint Patrick’s Day is probably the most widely celebrated saint’s day in the world.
In our house Saint Patrick’s Day was an even more special day as it was the birthday of my grandfather, Frank Wheeler, my mother, Dorothy Grace Wheeler Walls and my sister, Wendy Anne Walls Cheesman. This Saturday is March 17th and my sister is still with us to celebrate her Saint Patrick’s Day birthday. Our son and his wife will visit her on that day which makes me very happy.
A very early memory I have is a newspaper clipping of a photograph of the three birthday people in The Toronto Globe and Mail. It was a big deal in those days to be in the newspaper.
For many it is an excuse to drink green beer and have a jolly good time whether you are Irish or just Irish at heart.
In major cities there are parades and many different Saint Patrick’s Day festivities which are enjoyed by all ages.
At the very least everyone wears something green and the camaraderie and ebullience of the Irish, not to mention their love of a wee dram, is duly celebrated.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!